Author, Journalist & Traveller
After I finished University (Newcastle) in 1982 I bought a one-way ticket to Cairo and set off travelling. Never having been abroad before I was understandably shocked on arrival in Cairo. Walking out the airport at 2 a.m. looking for a bus (no money for a taxi) I saw a line of people sleeping under their white sheets and joined them. Having built up a bit more courage later I ended up travelling through Egypt, Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda and Kenya. Several months later I was back in Sudan as an English teacher, first in Darfur, later in the south. The latter was a particularly intense experience. Yambio, the small town in Western Equatoria, was cut off by the civil war for much of the time and I was alone, the only foreigner most of the time. I did vast bicycle rides, journeying deep into Zaire, visiting only remote areas as I had no paperwork or visa. There was no electricity, no running water, no post, no telephone. When I came to write Paradise (published May 2006) I often thought of that time - it seemed like an experiment in living even then. To jump out of one's own world into another, one that offered the most extreme version of the rural retreat ever.
Eventually the isolation was too much. I went to Kenya, then back to England to study education for a year (and in Madrid for some months), then to Yemen and Malaysia. It was in Kuala Lumpur that I started writing professionally, working for newspapers and magazines all across the Far East and South East Asia. Eventually, I went back to Yemen but the country fell apart in the Civil War of 1994 and I was back living in England for the first time in 12 years. Since then I've written books and articles, done some television, rather more radio. (Articles for the Guardian can be found on their website.) I'm now working on some book ideas to follow up Paradise.